It was 60 years ago today — Feb. 3, 1959 — that Ritchie Valens died in the plane crash that also killed Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper. I use the anniversary as the springboard to present my research into the two concerts Valens gave in — where else? — good ol’ Pomona. That fills a longer-than-usual Sunday column.
In a column that’s been in the works for months, here’s the story of Rainbow Gardens, a dance hall from the ’40s to the ’60s that drew an amazing array of performers, many of them household names. It was the Fox or Glass House of its day. It’s the subject of my Friday column. (And will result in at least two follow-ups.)
I’ve known Robert Dukes mostly to say hello to, but I sat down with the newly retired Pomona Superior Court judge to talk about one of my favorite topics and his: the old days. That’s my Wednesday column.
I sat down for a chat with Tim Sandoval, the mayor of Pomona since 2016. He’s had trouble achieving his goals, but the election swept in three City Council members more favorable to him. We’ll see how that goes; for now, here’s Wednesday’s column.
Longtime residents still talk about the beauty of the Palomares dining room in downtown Pomona’s Buffums’ department store, which closed in 1991. Contributing to that beauty were two murals by the Millard Sheets Studio. They were sold to the highest bidder when the store closed, along with other fixtures. But they’ve been bought by the Tessier family, who own the Fox Theater and other properties downtown, and will be on display starting Saturday. Read more, and see photos, in my Friday column.
I attended the retirement luncheon for Pomona cop Ron McDonald and got Sunday’s column out of it. Frankly, McDonald is so low-key and had such a let’s-get-this-over-with attitude that I didn’t expect much. But the event was quite nice.
Above, an Instagram post by John Pena, as seen on Eye on Pomona
One Pomona business owner who considered the arrival of Bird scooters on his property a scourge took matters into his own hands.
John Pena, who owns the Mission Promenade mixed-use center at Mission and Garey, wasn’t happy to see the scooters on his property, where a sign reads “No skateboards, no bikes.” He called the city and learned Bird had no permits.
(The company dropped scooters off around the city overnight Tuesday and then alerted City Hall that it would apply for permission, as my colleague Liset Marquez reported.)
I happened to be sitting by Pena at a luncheon event at the Sheraton on Thursday and he told me about the scooters. He said he had phoned Bird on Wednesday asking that the scooters be removed and the company assured him it would do so. Two hours later, he phoned again and they told him they’d already collected them. No, they hadn’t.
Pena said if the scooters weren’t gone in two hours, he’d throw them in the trash. That got no response either.
He didn’t want to damage them, so no throwing was involved. Instead, he placed the eight scooters upright in the trash enclosure and texted a photo to Bird.
“Guess what? Two hours later, they were gone,” Pena said. “They probably thought I was bluffing, but I wasn’t bluffing. And now this morning they’re gone. So they understood.”
This vivid photo of the old Owl Drug Co. in Pomona was posted by Darin Kuna on his fabulous Growing Up in Pomona in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s Facebook page.
The view of the storefront was a landscape photo, so large Darin split it in two. (The man’s sleeve is barely visible above on the right, with his complete figure seen below.) Click on either photo for a bigger view.
As the car is said to be a 1938 Plymouth coupe, the photo may date to that year or thereabouts.
The Rexall store was at 102 E. 2nd St., which I believe was the southeast corner of Garey and 2nd. It’s long gone and that lot is now a parking lot.
In the comments on Facebook, Elizabeth Cole said she remembers the store from childhood and “how beautiful” it was. “When you entered it, it had a tobacco counter, made of polished dark wood, with the smell of all kinds of tobacco and pipes with a person selling it inside,” she wrote.
A mysterious sign on the door advertising “Hot Chemm” was explained by Kenny Soper: “Hot Chemm was a vitamin food drink that was sold at drug store fountains. It was something new around the time this photo was taken.”
Another interesting feature is the ramp visible from the sidewalk into the street, meant, Kuna tells me, to allow pedestrians to cross in wet weather without stepping into a puddle or stream of water. Must have made for an obstacle for cars like that Plymouth trying to pull into traffic.
Also, I asked about the striking building visible in the reflection of the sign next to the word “Co.” See that ornate tower?
That, Kuna says, was the Pomona Implement Co., located on the northwest corner of 3rd and Garey, opposite the Fox on the southwest corner and the Mayfair on the northeast corner. He had a photo of that, too. The towers were sheared off in a later remodel and the building was, alas, torn down in the early 1970s. It’s remained a parking lot — there’s a lot of that going around in this post — for the adjacent bank ever since.
How that’s for a blast of Pomona architectural history?
UPDATE: Soper adds via Facebook: “I don’t know if you are aware of it or not, but the 2nd floor of the Pomona Implement Co. building was the location of the Municipal Court. The entrance to the courtroom was through the stairway on the south side (Third St.), which is behind the tree in your photo. One of the judges was Harry Westgate whose home was on the southwest corner of Lincoln and Washington. It was later the home of Jon Provost.”
More proof that everything is connected, or at least everything I’ve ever written about.
Ron McDonald finally decided he was the retiring type after 53 years with the Pomona Police Department. I wrote about him in 2015 on his 50th anniversary and write about his retirement in Sunday’s column.
An interfaith service at a synagogue in Pomona a week after the Pittsburgh murders drew several hundred people, including yours truly. I went out of curiosity as a member of the community but also brought a notebook. The service was really interesting, and even though a few days have gone by, I decided to write it up for Wednesday’s column anyway. Hey, it beats yet another election story, right?